Make it Glow – In Lightroom?

Have you heard about luminosity masks? These are masks or selections, in Photoshop or other image editing programs, based on the brightness of the pixels. So we can have a selection of all the \’light\’ pixels only, or all the \’dark\’ pixels only or all the \’dark shadow\’ pixels only … you get the point. Then you can use these selections to improve on certain selective parts of your image.

I was introduced to this concept of \’Luminosity Masking\’ sometime back – and found Tony Kuyper – Luminosity masking and Tony Kuyper are almost synonymous with each other. Tony has some excellent tutorials on Photoshop at his website, and here is the link to his Luminosity Masking explanation.

After going through the tutorial, making my masks, and using the masks, I was sold on them. I ended up buying Tony\’s set of actions (as a way to support him for all the excellent tutorials he writes for free). With that package of actions, I got a \’Make it Glow\’ action .

Tony recommends it for sandstone images and other southwest us landscapes. I used it on my photos of Lower Calf Creek Falls – and wow!, I love the way it looks!

Here\’s an excerpt of how the \’Make it Glow\’ action works from this blog post by Tony:

\”It simultaneously increases contrast and saturation in a smooth manner across the entire image. It essentially imparts a glow to the image that looks pretty natural. A low-contrast, low-saturation image that has lots of texture is a good place to try it. ”

And another excerpt from the same post
\”Since it makes a pretty dramatic change, lowering the opacity of the layer it’s on can help decrease the effect if it goes too far. Also, a vibrance mask on the layer can help restrict the effect to less-saturated areas of the image.”

This action is really awesome – but now, I\’m wondering, how I can create a similar effect in the develop module in Lightroom 4? Where do I start? I found this link on how to create the \’Orton Effect\’ in Lightroom ” by Helen Bradley. By playing with her technique and applying the concept behind the \’make it Glow\’ action, I\’m trying to figure out if I can actually create a \’Make it Glow\’ effect. So that is one of my new projects – making a \’Make it Glow\’ preset for Lightroom 4.

If you know of someone who has already done this, can you pretty please send me a link to their website / preset so I don’t have to figure this out by myself? Please?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

My way out of the Rut

Are of course, writing the morning pages. I don’t know who pointed me to \’The Artist\’s Way\’ by Julia Cameron – a friend? a random blog post or an article? The who is lost in my memory – though I am eternally grateful that I came across the suggestion to read the book

I remember borrowing the book from the library, and reading it well past the due date while accruing enough fines to buy half the book. Then I actually went and bought the book too, and since then have recommended this to some people whom I though would benefit from it – you see, one need not be the artistic type to get something out of this book – one just needs to want to know oneself better and change their current status quo…

So what are these morning pages? In \’The Artist\’s Way\’, morning pages are one of the exercises which the author asks everyone to do – everyday – first thing in the morning. Here is the explanation from the author herself:
\”Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Occasionally colorful, more often than not Morning Pages are negative, fragmented, repetitive or bland. Good!  Worrying about your job, the laundry, the weird look your friend gave you – all that stuff distracts you from your creativity. It eddies through your subconsciousness and muddies your day. Get it on the page first thing in the morning and move on with your day with a freer spirit. \”

For me, the morning pages work to bring some sanity in me – they help me if I\’m fighting with the people in my life or I\’m frustrated at work or if I\’m generally unhappy and cant figure out why or if I\’m in a creative rut. The list goes on. The morning pages help me clear my mind. And inspire me and motivate me to do what I need to do. It\’s almost like I\’m a better person overall when I write the morning pages.

So do I write them everyday? I try to but I mostly go in cycles with these (as much as anything else in my life). I\’ll write them with dedication for a month, maybe two…by then my mental state stabilizes, inspiration flows and I start working… then I get lazy and stop writing …then something happens – I fall into a rut or am upset or am depleted or a life-changing incident(or what feels like it) happens – and I get back to writing again…

One thing is for sure though – I may write the morning pages for a couple of days or for a couple of months – either ways, the changes in myself and my mental clarity on those days is amazing.

If you have actually read this post till here, as a reward for your persistence, I suggest you try writing the morning pages. Go to this link and check out what Julia says about morning pages, and watch the video.

It would be great if you would support Julia and buy her book – but even if you don\’t buy the book, try writing the morning pages for just two days! After all, all you need is a pen, paper and about 30-40 minutes in the morning. :).

And if you do feel like it, I would love to hear your experience on writing the morning pages. Do you feel any different after writing them? Am I deluded or are they really that amazing?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

What do I want from my photography?

This is a question which I\’ve been thinking about for a while… what is it that I want from my photography?

I used to think I wanted my photographs to make me famous, like Ansel Adams or Anne Geddes – and be known as a great master photographer. Turns out, I don’t really care about the fame… I don’t deny my ego boost whenever someone looks at my photos and says something nice. But photographs making me famous – if it happens, sure…but I\’m not losing any sleep over it.

I used to think that what I want is for my photographs to spread joy – to uplift people when they look at my photos. Hmm..that\’s a lofty goal isnt it?

Well, turns out, I don’t really care….its good if people do find joy in a photo or two, or a photo or two makes them think…but if they don’t, doesn’t mean I\’m going to stop photographing.

I used to think that I want my photographs to make me a lot of money …but because they don’t, doesn\’t mean I \’m going to give up photography!

So what is it that I want out of photography? Well, I\’m still in search of an answer to that one…

Meanwhile, here is what I know now, as of now, my current truth: I photograph because I need to , and I post photographs here because I want to – and that’s about it…

Aargh! My muse is dead!

So I think I\’ve killed my muse. My fire to go out and photograph seems to be totally doused. When did this happen? Why did this happen? I don’t know… Was it because I decided to move camera systems? Don’t think so… because I still have my canon and my lovely little Olympus.

I just seem to have no drive to go to places to photograph anymore. And the fact that my drive\’s vanished is driving me crazy… I do still have the desire to go out and shoot – but when push comes to shove, I just sit on the couch! So what is this happening to me?

Just another boring yearly or bi-annual rut? Will I ever recover from this? Should I just find a corner and sit and cry?

Luckily over the weekend, I got my copy of Hugh Mc Leod\’s Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. Recommended by Derek Sivers of here. And the book kicked my butt… did something for me. Now instead of just sitting around and watching TV or reading Google News or other blog posts interminably, I am at least working on photographs … taken long ago, which are still in my \”To be Processed ” bucket and learning about post processing and photography again.

So maybe, once I slowly start working again on my photos, maybe the itch and the vision will come back? Maybe the muse will rise from the ashes ala Phoenix, and will bring the photographs along again?


Weekly Inspiration #2

Like all good things I start with, the starts are always accompanied with hiccups, with spurts and pauses… and so is this series. Here are this week\’s inspirations.

1. Rory Sutherland\’s Talk on TED Talks – \”Perspective is everything\”.

2.The Silliness of Busyness from Zen Habits.

I\’m too busy today to work on my photographs. I have too many things to do to play with my cat for the next 10 minutes. I have no time to read a verse of Dogen\’s poetry… And on and on and on it goes… No time to do things which bring me joy..but I do have ample time to shred old receipts (which need to be done..but at what cost?). The author here points out how silly our mindsets have become…a good one to read and contemplate.

3. Waka by Dogen

Dewdrops on a blade of grass,
Having so little time
Before the sun rises;
Let not the autumn wind
Blow so quickly on the field.

4. Peter Matthiessen from The Snow Leopard

All my life, I have hurried down between these walls, the sun crossing high over my head, voice swept away in the din of this green flood. The river, and life goin, the excruciating sun: why do I hurry?
– Peter Matthiessen

5. Amazing time lapse movie shared with me by a friend.
This beautiful work is by Luke Humphrey on Vimeo. I watch this in awe.

Intention for the week: Slow Down!

Weekly Inspiration #1

Here is the first post in a new series (all word, maybe some pictures some day?) called Weekly Inspiration which is about (I\’m sure you just can\’t guess this…) about what inspired me this week.

1. The War of Art by author Steven Pressfield.
I read about this book a while ago and bought it a while back as well. However, I keep going back and reading it again and again whenever in need of some motivation. It is a must read if you are an artist / entrepreneur / DIY enthusiast of any sort who has issues with doing what you want to. Basically, it will kick your butt and tell you to get moving and start doing what you want to in a foreceful, fun and emphatic manner. You should read the reviews on Amazon.

Kindle Amazon link: The War of Art – Kindle Edition
Amazon Paperback Link: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

2. Blog post link: An exceedingly simple Guide to a keeping a journal by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits
I have always read about poeple keeping journals, and have always wanted to write a journal. However I\’ve always had excuses – no time, takes too much time, too tired and rather sleep, woke up too late to write etc…Leo has a radical (and simple) new approach to journal keeping. If you are like me, then his method just might work for you. I am giving it a try since I read his post this week.

3.Blog post – What does it take to succeed in photography? by Kirk Tuck at The Visual Science Lab
I always feel like I suck at what I want to be good in – photography (and climbing and cycling and…). And like millions of others, I try to read up on what people who have made it – or on their way to making it have to say. In this post. Kirk talks about how discipline is what he considers is the top of the list. And I agree with him. You should go and read his post – its awesome.
Here are his suggestions quoted from his post.

\”Don\’t miss practice.
Practice good technique.
Don\’t cheat yourself.
Don\’t give in.
Don\’t give up.
Don\’t settle for less.
Work through the pains and disappointments.\”
– Kirk Tuck at VSL

Sea Theme for Flogr / Flickr

Sea Theme for Flogr / Flickr

I have finally done it! After planning to do so for almost 2 years, I have finally come up with a free theme – Sea for Flogr for you to use!

Let me rewind a bit – If you have gone to the \”Flickr Gallery” section of my website, you will see photos in a web photo gallery format. These photographs are actually my Flickr Sets.

I use the excellent free program – Flogr by Mike Carruth for this section of my website. From Mike\’s description: \”Flogr is a flexible script that displays your flickr photos in a customizable photo gallery you host on your website. If you use flickr but want to have a different look and feel for your photo gallery you may like flogr.\”

What you do is: you install this script on your web host space (with your domain name), and point it to your Flickr account – now you have a website to showcase you photographs. You can see how convenient this is, can\’t you? All you have to do is manage your photographs on Flickr, organize into sets and tag them, and voila – you have a fully functional web gallery!

Well, for my website, a while back, I had customized the stock themes which came with Flogr to match the rest of my website and customized the pages I wanted it to show. Over time I had a lot of people ask me (ok… maybe just a few people…) how I did it. That had given me the ides of coming up with a similar theme and distributing it for free.

So after a lot of procrastinating, here it is! My new theme Sea is yours to download. It is a light bright serene theme which will relax and de-stress you while at the same time inspire you to take your photography to the next level – and it will stun visitors to your web gallery by how awesome your photos are and what a bad-ass photographer you are— all for free! (Is that a good marketing pitch or what!).

You can take the Sea theme for a test drive and find out for sure – here. And after that, since you were stunned and wanted to stun other people with your photos, you can download the theme here. And you can download Flogr here.

Enjoy! (All marketing speak aside, if you do use the theme, I would really appreciate a note!)

And for those of you who didn\’t want to read through all that, here are quick links.

Quick Links:
Download Sea: Here
Download Flogr: Here

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Chameleon in Modhera – Happy 2012

My my! 2012 is already here – 16 days ago! And here I am still posting old old photos 🙂

2011 was a pretty good year photographically. I shot a lot of images I really liked. However it really sucked for photo editing – and writing posts – and letting the world know what I was upto photographically (yeah yeah..I know the world hardly cares…) I am so tempted to say that 2012 is going to be different, that I will post regularly, that I will keep my editing on par with what I shoot…

2011 was a fun year for phtography – I started having fun with photography again shooting with the camera on my phone (Samsung Galaxy SII) and using different photos apps – I fell in love with the wide angle lens in the camera. And then I went and bought the Olympus E-PL3 and now, I\’m shooting with all manual Konica Hexanon prime lenses with a Micro Four thirds adaptor – go figure…and I\’m totally enjoying it. I went so far as to leave my Canon 50D at home and took the Olympus on my trip to India and Thailand in December. And now, I am having traitorous thoughts about abandoning my Canon system all together – we\’ll see how it goes.

And if I get down it, I will write a post on this whole Olympus system plus Konica lenses (yes – I ended up buying a few ) craze.

For 2012, I have the following projects in mind – one is a series called \”The Pigeons of Modhera” – photographs taken in the Sun Temple of Modhera, Gujarat in Dec 2011. Another one on my list is to submit photographs of Gogol, and photographs from my \’After Sunset” ebook and try to get published. Three goals for the year – achievable, I hope.

So, I\’ll leave you with a new photo shot in December before I resum,e the older posts . The below photo is taken with the Konica hexanon 50mm f1.7 lens in Modhera, India.
Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-PL3
Exposure: 1/320s (aperture manual – f1.7)
Focal Length: 50mm
Lens: Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7
ISO: 200
WB: Daylight
Date: December 17, 2011 (India Time)

Modhera - Chameleon

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Fire Ball

Fire Ball

Fire Ball, Ride at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

This is another photograph from my photo shoot at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk with the Bay Area Night Photography meetup group. This was another photograph taken with my 10 stop B+W ND filter. Ad a side-note, check out this article on some stupendous examples of when and how to use strong ND filters.

Other photographs shot this night:
Sea Swings:

Technical Details:

Camera: Canon EOS 50D 15.1MP Digital SLR Camera
Exposure: 8s at at f/4.5
Focal Length: 20mm
Lens:Canon 10-22mm EF-S f3.5-4.5
Filter: B+W #110 3.0 (1000x) Neutral Density Glass Filter
ISO: 1000
WB: Daylight
Date: October 23, 2011

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

SoFoBoMo Resources List

This year, I participated in SOFOBOMO 2011 and successfully made (photographed, edited, processed and created ) a pdf ebook within 31 days. The book is called \”After Sunset” and is available as a free download here:After Sunset PDF Ebook.

When I signed up for the project, a few months before the challenge period started, I started looking into the hows and whys of pdf publishing and I found a bunch of resources online. I tried to read up / listen up on how to sequence and edit a photo book, what are the considerations for making a pdf ebook for various monitors and devices and what software to use.

For my desktop publishing software, I found a bunch : Adobe InDesign, Quark Xpress, Scribus…etc. I decided to use Scribus – for the reason that it is a open source software and is available for free.

Here is a list of resources I used:
1. PDF Publishing Workshop – A Visual Workshop from Lenswork – $99
This is a DVD I had purchased about a year ago. It has many hours worth of video tutorials about almost all aspects you can think of – on the topic of making a pdf publication. It takes a novice step by step – from what to consider when making a pdf publication to how to use Adobe InDesign to do that to and how to polish it up for a professional look. Though most of the tutorial is on InDesign, I found many of the concepts useful when using Scribus. I kept going back again and again to some of the basic concepts – like what document size to use, image resolution etc.

2. Mat Thorne video tutorial on Blurb: How to Sequence and Design Your Next Book Like Pro: An Insider\’s Guide – Free (56:09) from

\”Pro photographer and book designer Mat Thorne presents an introduction to book design principals. This webinar covers an overview of typography, essentials of cover design, and laying out front & back matter. Mat also shares examples and offers inspiration from published photography books.\”
I highly recommend spending the time to se this excellent video tutorial.

3. Mat Thorne\’s Video tutorial Part 2 : Free (1:07) from

The Part II of mat\’s tutorial is another hour, but it is another hour I found totally worth the investment.

4. Scribus tutorials from the Wiki Site – Free
This is the only resource I did not use when making my pdf – I cam ecaross these tutorials when writing this post. It seemed too goo a resource not to list.

5. Video tutorials on the basics of using Scribus on showmedo. – Free
I viewed the first few tutorials here and they helped me quite a bit in becoming familiar with Scribus.

6. The Non-Designer\’s Design Book by Robin Williams – $19.99 on, Free from your public library
This is a very easy to read fun book on book designing, as the name suggests. The concepts I read here help not only in designing ebooks, but also pamphlets, powerpoint presentations and other visual media. I highly suggest borrowing this book from your library and reading it.

That ends the compilation. If you have any other resources you recommend, do drop me a note.

Other SoFoBoMo posts:
Post 1:
Post 2:
Post 3:

Free Ebook: After Sunset – SoFoBoMo 2011

I did it! I published (rather uploaded) my SoFoBoMo 2011 book earlier on August 5 – a few days earlier than my deadline. You can get it from here (for free): Sofobomo 2011 book -478 – After Sunset. I have a total of 38 photos in this book. There are a few photos I am extremely happy with – which I think are keepers for my long-term portfolio.

Over the course of the month, the idea for the project changed from taking photos at twilight – to taking photos just after sunset> I just couldn\’t get up and be at the beach much before dawn. Also, since i hadn\’t scouted most of the beaches before, stumbling around in the dark before dawn did not seem such a great option.

As I had planned, I did find some poetry to go along with the pictures – which I was very keen on. The thought behind the poetry was – give the viewer a break from the visual with some relevant text. Maybe with more time, I could have found more / better poetry. A takeaway from this for me – is to read more poetry for future projects.

As I wanted to, I used Scribus for publishing the pdf. The learning curve was alright – not too steep. This is a piece of software which I will be using a lot more in the days to come. Coming in my next post – a compendium of resources which helped me publish my book. I hope to compile a list of resources on Scribus, ebook publishing, editing, and also the settings I used for the ebook and possibly the scribus template. And I promise – this post won\’t take forever in the posting.

I hope all of you who read this post will download the book, and it will be awesome if you can drop me a comment here on how you found the book, what you liked and what you didn\’t. Here is the link again:Sofobomo book- 478- After Sunset (And it is a free download!).

Other SoFoBoMo posts:
Post 1:
Post 2:

Update on 10/14/2011: Alas SoFoBoMo is closing. Looks like 2011 was the last year. Now you can download books directly from here (rather than through the SoFoBoMo website).

Ebook: After Sunset - SoFoBoMo 2011
Ebook: After Sunset – SoFoBoMo 2011, by Suprada on Flickr.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

Making money through Photography as Art

Dining Table in wine cave
Dining Table in wine cave, by Suprada on Flickr.

Can photography as art put food on the table? Make enough money to live?

A while back, I was reading a blog post by Trent at The Simple Dollar (a personal finance blog). The topic of this post was artists making money from their art. Here is an excerpt from Trent\’s post:
Quote: \”Earlier this week, I  stumbled upon a great interview with Francis Ford Coppola over at the 99 percent. In this interview, Coppola talks about the past and future of people making money from their art, whether it be music, movies, or other things:
Coppola: \”We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.\”

Is Coppola right? Is making money out of photography as art a fool\’s dream? I think so.

Of course, there are professional photographers out there – professional meaning they make their living from photography. However they seem to do so by writing books, articles and columns for magazines, giving workshops, teaching photography, making photos for advertising or stock…you get the point. It seems that a very small portion of the income of most professional photographers – maybe no part of their income – comes from selling \’their art\’ – prints of their soul satisfying, highly cherished personal work.

Coppola also brings up the point that artists have always needed patrons – who believe in the artist\’s vision and are willing to support the artist. In today\’s world, I don’t know of many such patrons coming forward to support artists.

In today\’s world – overwhelmingly, one is one\’s own patron. Take the case of professional photographers – they make a living out of photography so they can support the creation of their personal work – their personal art. So too is the case of the non-professional photographers who have a 9 to 5 job, but who feel the need to photograph.

However, there is one very interesting experiment in progress in finding patrons to support a artist similar to the old days: Ctein\’s 100 true Fans

Here is an excerpt from Ctein\’s original 100 True Fans post on The Online Photographer:
\”Fans subscribe to an artist. Instead of buying a particular existing work, they put their faith in the idea that if they liked work the artist has created in the past, they\’ll probably like the artist\’s work in the future. They each pay the artist a small monthly sum, who then makes new work available as it\’s created.”

This was back in March 2009. So does Ctein\’s experiment work? Here is an update from Ctein on The Online Photographer in March 2010:
\”Make no mistake, I didn\’t get anywhere close to 1000 True Fans (didn\’t expect to), I got 94. But those Contributors provided me with approximately $15,500 gross revenues, $12,500 net. That\’s about one third of what I need to live on, not a life-altering level of support but certainly a life-enhancing one that provides me with considerably more time to work on my art—the point of this. \”

That is indeed heartening news for all the artists out there who would like patrons – and it seems to be somewhat working. However, in the above post, Ctein goes on to point out that the true challenge will be in keeping these fans / patrons. Ctein\’s progress will be interesting to all artists – not just photographers.

Link to Ctein\’s website if you are interested in becoming one of his true fans:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)

iPhone apps for Photographers

In one of the mailing lists I subscribe to, there was a question asked about which Iphone apps people use for photography. So I decided to write about the iPhone applications I use.

Most of the applications I use are more for the \”research” part of my photography. I use these apps to help with trip planning, to try to understand the conditions at my location as much as possible. After all, being prepared maximizes the opportunity for that awesome shot!

The Weather Channel – Free -Needs Internet connectivity
The first thing a landscape photographer does before going on a photoshoot is …you guessed it right – check the weather. It does a decent job of giving a weather estimate.

Daylight – Free – Internet Connectivity required
Displays sunrise, sunset, dawn and dusk times at your current location in Civil, Astronomicaland Nautical times.

MoonPhase – $0.99 – No Internet connection required
For any day from 1910 to 2100, this application tells you the phase of the moon on any given day, moon rise and moon set times, location of the moon in the sky, and sunrise and sunset times. Pretty great app.

Bokeh – Free – No internet connection required
Calculates hyperfocal distance and depth of field.

Wind Alert – Free – Internet connection required
You can find out wind speeds and directions from the weather station closest to you shooting location.

TideApp – Free – Internet Connection required
This application is intended for boating. However, it is very useful for photographers who want to shoot at the beaches. The application provides current tide information, tidal charts, daily highs and lows with their accompanying times for different locations. It also provides tide information in the future, helping trip planning.

Flashlight – Free – No internet connection required
If you are shooting in the dark and need to quickly see your camera dial…or you need to find the way back to your car? This is a must-have app on your iPhone just for those emergencies.

8. iPhone Camera – free – No internet connection required
I use the iPhone camera to take a photo at every location, with Location Services enabled, even when I\’m doing night photography. The iPhone photo will have the position co-ordinates of the location embedded in it. I then use these co-ordinates and geo-tag the photographs taken from my other cameras – SLRs or Point and shoots.

So that\’s it. There is the list of apps I make use of most. I will update this list as and when I find cool new apps.

My Night Photography Techniques

El Conte at Night
El Conte at Night, by Suprada on Flickr.
El Conte draped in Fall colors, at Night, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Over the past few months, as I have gotten very interested in Night Photography. Here is my growing Night photography gallery. As I have posted these photographs, quite a few people have asked me to share my techniques. So here goes.

I got introduced to night photography by taking a workshop by Harold Davis. It was very inspiring and got me hooked to night photography. Before I go on, here is a plug: If you get an opportunity, and are interested in night photography I urge you to take a weekend workshop by Harold Davis. His workshops are very reasonably priced, packed with information and fun. Here is the list of current workshops offered by Harold Davis. (No, I don\’t get any kickback. However the workshop is so awesome, you\’ll love it.) All that I\’m writing about here so far, I learnt at his workshop.

Summary of my technique:
Scout a place when there is light and choose a vantage point. Go there in the dark. Set up tripod. Put camera in manual mode, focus lens manually to infinity. Take one extremely high ISO shot to determine light levels. Turn Noise Reduction Off. Set up Programmable Remote Timer to take many short exposures (e.g. 25 exposures of 2 minutes each, pause for 2 seconds between exposures). Combine all these exposures in post processing using Photoshop CS4 Extended – Statistics.

More about the Photoshop Post Processing.
You can download this article here : Stacking_Cheatsheet
(Right click on thumbnail and select \”Save file as” to download. You will need to install the free Adobe Reader to view this file. It can be downloaded at
Feel free to share this pdf as you please.

I visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October 2009. Fall colors were at their peak. That is the photograph above. I wanted to get a night photograph with Star Trails and the fall colors. So I took a series of long exposures and stacked them in Photoshop to get this image. Here are screenshots on how I stacked the images.
What equipment did I use?
1. Camera with Manual controls (Canon Rebel XT)
2. Remote Cable Release. (A Programmable remote control is the best. I didn’t own at the time this photo was made. However, that has been remedied now. See the last page for recommendations / links)
3. Sturdy Tripod
4. Lens Hood (to keep dew , dust off)
5. Flashlight / Headlamp for safe operation in the dark
6. Extra batteries
7. A cup of hot coffee to sip and look at the stars in the cold dark magnificent night.
This cheat sheet is not going to dwell upon how to take long exposures. After this point, I am going to assume that the reader already has a bunch of long exposures which the reader wants to stack. However, if you want to know more about this aspect, please refer to the very last page where I have some links to excellent tutorials which deal with all aspects of Star Trails.

Here is the set of photographs I want to merge. These exposures range from 30secs to 2mins each. I want to combine these exposures so that my final image has Star Trails. I plan to use Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended. As you can see, these photos are dark and have barely any star light in the sky.


I open Photoshop Cs4, Extended Version and navigate to Files -> Scripts -> Statistics.


Once in the “Image Statistics” window, there are so many options. Which do I choose? Here is where this cheat sheet comes in handy. I will show you what each method gives you so you can go right to it and not waste your time.


Once I selected the “Stack Mode” to use, I select the images I want to stack together.


You can choose from 11 Stack modes in Photoshop CS4 Extended. In alphabetical order, these choices are Entropy, Kurtosis, Range, Maximum, Mean, Median, Minimum, Skewness, Standard Deviation, Summation and Variance. So what results do each of these stack modes give when merging you photographs?
Below are images which resulted in combining the set of photographs shown earlier in Page 2. The exact same photographs were used in each of the below 11 example images – the only difference was the choice of Stacking Mode.

1. Stack Mode: Entropy


2. Stack Mode: Kurtosis


3. Stack Mode: Maximum


4. Stack Mode: Mean


5. Stack Mode: Median


6. Stack Mode: Minimum


7. Stack Mode: Range


8. Stack Mode: Skewness


9. Stack Mode: Standard Deviation


10. Stack Mode: Summation


11. Stack Mode: Variance


For the image on Page 1, I used the “Maximum” option to combine the images to get Star Trails. I then hand – blended the stacked image with another version exposed for the foreground to achieve the final image.

Here are some links on the Internet which talk about stacking and star trails.
1. Book Recommendation: Digital Night by Harold Davis – Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques
Great text combined with a lot of inspiring night photographs

2. Tips and Techniques from Harold Davis’ Photoblog 2.0 –
3. Excellent Star Trails Tutorial on by Floris –

4. StarTrails.exe Software –
5. How to use StraTrails.exe software for Star Trails by Adam Currie –

6. ImageStacker Software for Stacking –
7. How to Use ImageStacker –

8. Different method of Stacking using Photoshop –

9. LiveWebcast on Youtube – Secrets of Digital Night Photography by Harold Davis –

10. Canon programmable Remote Timer from Amazon – Canon TC80N3 Timer Remote Control for EOS D30, D60, D10, 1D, 1V & 20D SLR Cameras

11. Satechi Programmable Remote Timer for Canon Cameras (cheaper than Canon) – TR-A Timer Remote Control Shutter for Canon EOS-1V/1VHS, EOS-3, EOS-D2000, D30, D60, 1D, 1Ds, EOS-1D Mark II,III, EOS-1Ds Mark II,III, EOS-10D, 20D, 30D,40D, 50D, 5D, 5D Mark II, 7D fully compatible with Canon TC80N3

12. Satechi Programmable Remote Timer Cameras for Nikon – TR-B Timer Remote Control Shutter for for Nikon D700, D300, D300S, D200, D3S, D3, D2H, D2Hs, D2x, D1, D1H, D1x, F100, F6, F5, F90X and F90 fully compatible with Nikon MC-30